Tips for Filming Pre-Recorded Workout Videos from an Expert

March 17, 2020 Christina Libertini

Two fitness instructors film a squats workout with a video camera

It can be a bit scary to try something new. Sure, you might be a pro at running your fitness business, managing a team, or teaching classes—but video is a whole new world. How can you go from amateur to auteur?  

Here are some tips to make you feel at home in front and behind the camera throughout the process of making pre-recorded videos (if you’re ready for live streaming, check this out): 

Pre-production

  • Decide what kind of video you want to make. Gather references, analyze the videos you like to watch, and try to mimic different approaches until you get a feel for your own style. 
  • Enlist friends, colleagues, family to help. Having someone operate the camera so “the talent” can focus on teaching can really help things flow faster. 
  • Try to give yourself a good window of time, at least a couple of hours, to film your first few attempts. As you become more familiar with the process, you can probably speed things up, but take your time at the beginning so it doesn’t feel stressful. 
  • An iPhone or simple DSLR camera can capture really good content, but be sure to spend a little time learning how to use your equipment before shoot day. It’s no fun to deal with technical problems just when you’re getting in the groove. Charge the batteries, be sure there’s enough storage, and have backups if needed. 

Filming, set-up, and location

  • For tutorials and classes, record all your content horizontally, not vertically, so that it’s easy to view on a connected TV or laptop. Choose the highest possible quality setting. 
  • If using a phone, be sure to switch into Airplane Mode before filming to reduce distractions and increase battery life. 
  • Minimize shaking by using a tripod or propping the phone/camera on a sturdy surface. 
  • If you have someone filming for you, and you’d like to include some simple motion or different angles, consider using a handheld gimbal or stabilizer (both help to minimize camera shaking). They’re widely available for less than $100. Simpler is almost always better, though, especially when you’re getting started. The interest should be coming from the content, not the camera movement. 
  • Be sure the lighting is bright and flattering. Consider trying to stand with a window or light source to the side and slightly above, but not directly above or below. If you’re filming on a phone, lock the focus and exposure by holding down on the screen before starting. 
  • Double check to be sure there are no visible logos (besides your own), water bottles, etc. in the background; choose a nice, clean frame without any clutter. A random Starbucks cup can be a huge distraction (you remember the final season of Game of Thrones). 
  • Audio is one of the hardest parts of making a great video. Find a spot where it’s very quiet, with no loud noises, traffic, etc. in the background; speak loudly and confidently. If you want to invest, consider a wireless microphone that plugs into the camera, or a plug-in mic for your phone. Another option is to record the visuals only, then go back and record the voiceover in a quiet space with no distractions (and a nice plug-in USB microphone as well.) 

Direction

  • Make eye contact with the camera the entire time. Pretend the camera is someone you’re talking to one-on-one. The more engaged you are, the more engaged your viewers will be. 
  • Practice! It’s a common misconception that you can just do one take and call it done. Really great content creators do multiple takes, revise, edit and are open to honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to start over if it’s not working or move onto something different. No one will know what didn’t work, they’ll only know what did. 
  • Most of all, HAVE FUN! If you’re having a good time, your viewers will, too. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality and make the occasional on-camera mistake. 

Post-production

  • Have a computer or external hard drive with plenty of storage to archive your footage. You never know when you’ll want to go back to an earlier video or make a new edit. 
  • There are a few easy-to-learn editing programs out there. One of the most well-known is iMovie—it’s free if you have a Mac, and you can simply drag and drop your files to make a video quickly. Adobe Premiere Rush is an app-based editing program, allowing easy editing right from your tablet or phone. It’s specifically designed for content creators, it’s fast and a great option as you’re getting started. If you’d like to try more professional video software, Adobe Premiere is the industry standard, but it does take some time to learn to use and has a higher subscription cost.
  • Adding music to your videos is often a great idea, but unless you have the rights to use a song for commercial videos—a “sync” license—you could risk being charged with copyright infringement. Both YouTube and Facebook will unlist videos they believe are in breach, so it’s better to start off with a good plan. YouTube offers some free songs that can be added after uploading; you can find royalty-free stock music online for a fairly low cost from sites like artlist.io or Premium Beat. Or, get creative and partner with a musician friend. Just don’t forget to give them credit when you post the final video. 
  • The post-production process can be challenging, but just like filming, a little practice goes a long way. You’ll learn as you go and get better and better with each video. 

Publishing

  • Consider where your audience is already engaging with your brand, and publish with that in mind. Facebook, Instagram, and especially YouTube and Vimeo are easy spots for your clients to find your content.  
  • Make sure you promote your video at your business, on social, and with an email. 

Video can be a powerful tool for any size studio or gym. With a little practice, you’ll be producing videos that clients love. And remember: being authentic is more important than being perfect.

Get more advice from other business owners in Mindbody One.

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